As a digital entrepreneur who's been working in client services for over a decade, I've worked with and recruited talent all over the world.
I've created offices in Germany, Latin America, and Thailand, among other regions, and I've learned that distributed teams and offshore really can work--but it's not easy. It takes process, discipline, and trust to ensure that expectations are clearly set and incentives between the client, the customer, and all other stakeholders are aligned.
If you want to implement outsourcing in your own company, you can do it successfully--but you need the right strategy. Based on experience, these are the ten most critical things to keep in mind when outsourcing offshore:
1. Time zone is crucial.
If you have to adjust your work flow to accommodate the dev team in another part of the world, that should be a deal-breaker. The whole point of outsourcing is to create an extension of your team--to facilitate that, aligning time zones is crucial.
In my own business, I've had a great experience working in Uruguay. Fernando Colman, CEO of Rootstrap Studios, explains why this works so well:
"Uruguay has already made a name for itself as a Latin American tech hub for top enterprise companies. These kinds of partnerships have made Uruguay one of Latin America's leading software exporters to the United States in just a few short years, and I'm excited to see the market continue to grow."
The 12 hours it takes for you to be in sync with a developer, the difficulty with clearing their blockers and holdups, and the inability for your team to collaborate with them is a recipe for disaster.
2. Process is everything.
If you are vetting potential offshore partners and they don't have their own process in place, run for the hills. The reason you pay any kind of premium for an offshore team is that they have a set of tools and processes that they're great at using and can deliver on.
If they don't have a strong process or are clamoring to adapt to whatever process you want, that's always a huge red flag for me: It tells me that these people aren't really concerned with their own efficiency and don't really know what they're doing.
3. Language adds complexity.
It's hard enough speaking and communicating with introverts in your native language. Adding another layer of complexity by working with a team that doesn't speak your language is a quagmire waiting to happen. This is another thing that's helped us succeed working in Uruguay--and plenty of other companies have had the same experience.
Try to find offshore or nearshore partners that are bilingual in English or the language that you speak. That's the best way to keep communication clear and work running smoothly.
4. Make sure they have support from U.S. partners.
There's nothing quite like being able to hop on the phone--not a Skype call--and vent with a product manager, a client principal, or somebody that is local stateside onshore. Make sure they have some kind of presence in the United States--Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York; just something where you can get in touch with someone inside the country.
5. Make sure their pricing is competitive, but not too cheap.
I'm a firm believer in value-based pricing, so I'm much more inclined to take the team that's the best over the team that's the cheapest. 99 percent of the time, it more than pays for itself with fewer headaches and increased efficiency down the line.
6. Make sure you've reviewed code and samples.
I make all of our new vendors go through some kind of code review process to understand what kind of tools, testing methods, and protocols they have in place in their process. This is critical, especially with teams in parts of the world where there isn't much of a test-driven development culture.
7. Check their profile on Github or other places like Stack Overflow.
Any team you work with should be active on Github, Stack Overflow, or some equivalent developer platform. Are they contributing to the community? How much? How little?
These types of things are good indicators of how qualified and how technical a team might be for your project--and they show passion, which tells you if they'll really be willing to go the extra mile.
Finding the right partner takes time, but it's worth the effort.
After several years of working with an offshore partner in Uruguay, I can say from direct experience that outsourcing really can work. It takes time and energy to find a partner that's a good fit, but investing that energy now pays off in the long run--there's nothing worse than hastily picking a partner only to discover incompatibilities down the line.